Miami Heat team president Pat Riley truly embraces the Godfather-esque type of role he has held in the NBA for the majority of his post-playing career. Playing the part with his slicked back hair, fashionable Armani suits and carrying a powerful aura, Riley’s success speaks for itself. However, recent events may have clouded Riley’s judgement on the past.
In a conversation with the Miami Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman, Riley said that the acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal, and not the signing of LeBron James or Chris Bosh, or even the trade to acquire Alonzo Mourning, was the biggest transaction in the history of the Heat franchise:
“I’ll say this, and I mean this,” Riley says during a relaxed moment this past week, “Shaq’s acquisition was bigger than any acquisition that we ever made, including the Big Three.”
“Zo was big,” Riley says, “but getting Shaquille changed everything for our franchise.”
“The seminal moment,” Riley says, “to really make us really, really legitimate. He turned our franchise around. He gave us real legitimacy.”
This is a rather curious statement by Riley. Now he did clearly say “acquisition” so it’s safe to leave Dwyane Wade — drafted by Miami — out of this discussion. While O’Neal was still an All-Star when the Heat traded for him in 2004 and instrumental in Miami winning its first franchise championship in 2006, it was Wade, not Shaq, who carried the load for them in the Finals comeback against the Dallas Mavericks.
When it comes to LeBron and Bosh, both were extremely instrumental in Miami’s other two championship seasons (2012 and 2013), teaming up with Wade to form a Big Three that may be one of the best three-man pairings of all-time. James was the main star for those Heat teams and it was Riley who helped convince LeBron to come to Miami. Plus LeBron James is LeBron James, arguably the best player in the world. So what is Riley talking about?
Now, Riley’s conversation with Winderman was in regards to O’Neal’s September enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame so he may have simply wanted to laud praise on his former center at a special moment in Shaq’s career. But Riley is also not 100 percent wrong either.
The acquisition of O’Neal did help the Heat win their first franchise championship, a very notable achievement which shouldn’t be overlooked. However, it’s especially hard to argue that James, who led the Heat to two rings, didn’t have a bigger impact in Miami than O’Neal.
Riley may just still be bitter that LeBron spurned the Heat to return to Cleveland two years ago. But it seems foolish for him to put O’Neal’s value to franchise over those two superstars. Perhaps he will offer similar praise of James and possibly Bosh when it comes time for them to enter the Hall of Fame.
Courtesy: CBS Sports